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‘Competitive Squad’ Boosts Foley’s Options For Sale

‘Competitive Squad’ Boosts Foley’s Options For Sale

Following a weekend where 45 players represented Munster in either GUINNESS PRO12 or British & Irish Cup action, competition remains high for inclusion in the Champions Cup matchday squad, away to Sale Sharks on Saturday.

Having returned to winning ways at Thomond Park last Friday, Munster head coach Anthony Foley commented on some notable absentees from the side that defeated Scarlets 17-6 in the PRO12.

Having played every minute of the previous three rounds, Paul O’Connell was rested for the game and along with Andrew Conway, Felix Jones and Denis Hurley, he is back in contention for this weekend’s Champions Cup opener.

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“Paulie didn’t train at all this week so we couldn’t put him out. Andrew (Conway) came off last weekend so on a six-day turnaround you can’t really look at fellas who haven’t trained,” explained Foley.

“Felix pulled out, he trained fully on Wednesday, passed a fitness test and woke up Thursday morning with a stiff neck so we had to be cautious with him.

“Denis Hurley was sick during the week as well so he didn’t train at all and you can’t pick fellas if they don’t train, it’s as simple as that.”

Following an unprecedented string of injuries at hooker earlier this season, Foley’s front row fortunes look to be changing. He praised strong performances from Kevin O’Byrne and Argentina’s Eusebio Guinazu who made his debut for the province against the Scarlets.

Coupled with the speedy recovery of Duncan Casey and the returning Niall Scannell, this offers the head coach a return to strength in depth at hooker. “We hope to get Duncan Casey back next week and Niall Scannell is also back next week.”

On the issue of a recurring foot injury for Damien Varley, Foley added: “He had a scan last week and he’s seeing a specialist on Monday over in London. He’s not definitely ruled out for Sale – it’s an injury he played with last year. It’s not an ideal situation but we need to get the best advice for him so we’re looking at that.”

Foley also remains hopeful that Sean Dougall, who sustained a bang to the shoulder against the Ospreys, will recover sufficiently to vie for a place in this weekend’s travelling squad.

And it is not only those who lined out in the PRO12 that are in contention. Impressive British & Irish Cup performances provide the Munster boss with further food for thought as he selects his first matchday 23 for top flight European rugby.

“I suppose everybody talks about the players who aren’t there. I have always focused my mind on the guys who are in the squad.

“There are guys putting their hands up left, right and centre to be selected. It is always good to have that kind of pressure and it is good to have a competitive squad going into the start of Europe.”